Author of “Losing My Religion: How I Lost My Faith Reporting on Religion in America — and Found Unexpected Peace”

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Deconstructing criticism

February 18th, 2009 · 5 Comments


With the launch of my book a week away, I’m starting to read and hear an increasing amount of criticism–something I expected with a memoir titled, “Losing My Religion.” They have their opinion; I have mine. Fair enough. But I thought I’d take a stab at answering some of the most popular criticisms.

Criticism: You’re anti-religious or anti-Christian. I’m not. I miss my faith. But I can’t believe what I feel in my heart (and see with my eyes) is untrue. I believe I’ve found the truth, but have enough humility (and experience) to know I need to keep my eyes open for new information that could reshape my views. So far, in my three years as an out-of-the-closet atheist, the evidence has continued to pile up against a personal God who intervenes in my life. In the end, I’m anti-hypocrisy–especially when the hypocrites operate under the guise of God.

Criticism: You are trying to lead people away from God and/or Jesus Christ. Not really. This is just my story. I’m really hoping my journey will let folks know it’s normal to wrestle with doubts and also to get people to think more about faith and its shortcomings. Some of the biggest fans of my memoir have been pastors and other reformers who think the Body of Christ has grown soft and could use the wake up call. Christianity would make a whole lot more sense to me if Christians acted like they really believed the message of the Gospel.

Criticism: You’ve confused the sinfulness of man with a perfect God. This is condescending. In Christian theology, I understand the difference between God and fallen man. And I know that means Christian institutions, run by human, won’t be perfect. But the argument falls apart on several levels. First, despite man’s fallen nature, Christian institutions should behave in a manner morally superior than their secular counterparts. I didn’t see much difference. But that not even where I lost my faith. That fact only caused me to start questioning other aspects of Christianity: why Christians behave basically the same as atheists in terms of morals and ethics; why no studies show that prayer works; why God gets credit for answered prayers and no blame to tragedies; and why the Bible is filled with a litany of bizarre punishments (death for working on the Sabbath, for one), a wrathful God who wipes out whole populations; why Christianity would be the one true faith out of the 1,000 of religions past and present; how God could be both merciful and just (the notions are contradictory); and even why Jesus didn’t speak out against slavery (in fact, he only says they should be beaten less). Eventually, my faith collapsed under the weight of all the evidence against it. I’d say as a Christian, I had mistaken a man-made creation for one developed by a loving God.

Criticism: You were never really a serious Christian, so you didn’t really lose your faith, you never had it. I’d agree with half that statement. I didn’t really lose my faith in the sense that you can’t lose something that didn’t exist. But I indeed was a serious Christian for more than a dozen years. I went to church weekly. I was member of a small men’s group that studied the Bible. I went on retreats. I read the Bible daily. I prayed several times a day. I read scores of Christian books. I don’t see how anyone could argue that I didn’t take my faith seriously. I think it helps critics to paint me as a half-ass Christian because then I’m easily dismissed.

Criticism: You’re just trying to sell books. I do want to sell a bzillion books, but that doesn’t change my experiences or my de-conversion journey. I also find it funny that Christians never accuse Christian authors–who make a fabulous living off their books–of “just trying to sell books.”

Criticism: You’ve consigned yourself to an eternity in hell. Look, I’ve tried my hardest to hang on to my faith. I just don’t have it. If there happens to be a Christian God and, given the circumstances, he still sends me to an eternity in hell, then what kind of loving God is that? Does that make sense to anyone? What kind of person are you worshipping? More likely, if I’m wrong and there is a loving God, I imagine he would look at me and said, “Son, I know how hard you struggled to believe. I’m very proud of your effort. I love you. Let’s spend eternity together.” What would you do as a loving father?

I didn’t write this post to sway critics. I’m guessing they are locked into their beliefs. But I do think there are a lot of people in live in shades of gray. I at least wanted to give those people something to think about.

Tags: Faith and Doubt

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Deconstructing criticism | williamlobdell.com | manisbetter.com // Feb 18, 2009 at 1:07 pm

    [...] Deconstructing criticism | williamlobdell.com [...]

  • 2 PK // Feb 19, 2009 at 3:08 am

    I just found your site via Skeptics. Next I look forward to reading your new book . My guess is that I will feel it’s as much about me and my “religious” life experiences as you. What you have written here and other places certainly confirms to the experiences I have had growing up as a born-again Xtian. If you haven’t already read Bart Ehrman’s works I can recommend highly two of his books which dovetail yours: GOD’S PROBLEMS and MISQUOTING JESUS. Both are solidly and definitively researched. They have provided me with the “hard” research I have always wanted to help me make rational decisions about the Xtian religion.

  • 3 klmorovic // Feb 19, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    These are fantastic responses to such superficial criticisms. I noticed Dan Barker received many of the same personal criticisms when he published Godless, such as “You were never a real Christian” and “You’re going to hell now.” It’s really a show of how unwilling religious people are to look critically at the faults of their own beliefs, and instead resort to accusations and insults. I am very much looking forward to reading your book, and good luck on your book tour!

  • 4 ThoughtWalks // Feb 25, 2009 at 11:56 pm

    Hi, I like your site and this article. Thinking of buying your book too. I’m currently in the process of seriously re-evaluating my beliefs and attempting to answer a LOAD of questions (http://thoughtwalks.blogspot.com/2009/02/all-questions-in-world.html)… So I may be heading in your direction. However I don’t quite follow some of what you say here…

    “…Christian institutions should behave in a manner morally superior than their secular counterparts.” - Why would this necessarily be the case? One of the questions I asked above was about why it didn’t impact my life “enough”, so I kind of get this. But where does the Bible say that churches WILL be morally superior? Maybe it indicates or says they SHOULD be… but maybe that’s just not the case. Maybe the “success” of Christianity is not measurable by the actions of it’s followers? I don’t know what it is measurable by if not though!

    “More likely, if I’m wrong and there is a loving God, I imagine he would look at me and said, “Son, I know how hard you struggled to believe. I’m very proud of your effort. I love you. Let’s spend eternity together.” What would you do as a loving father?” - Not sure what I think about this. I kind of feel that if God is God and he sets the rules then they’re absolute… follow me & go to heaven - don’t follow me and don’t go to heaven. Is there a good reason to believe in a soft God that’ll go back on his word?

    I’m interested in your thoughts and experiences, but it seems quite “me” centred - questioning the experiential truth of it (as if it should noticably work out for you) rather than questioning the factual truth of it (Did it happen? Does he exist?). If it’s true, then any of the questions you raise above can be answered pretty much by saying “God is God, He makes the rules”.

    However, the big question on my mind, and no doubt it has been on yours, is: how do you know what is true?

  • 5 ThoughtWalks // Feb 26, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    As I was pondering these things last night I realised another reason why the above didn’t sit right with me. On the one hand you appear to be saying “God can’t exist, because the people who try to follow him are not changed enough by him” and on the other hand saying “If God exists, I want him to reward me for my efforts despite not being changed”… don’t those 2 kind of contradict each other? It’s almost like one rule for yourself (Forgive me, I tried hard!) and one for the church (Unforgivable - they’re trying but not changing!).

    The tenable positions related to this, given that the church isn’t living up to expectations, are as follows (in my view):
    - Church isn’t good enough, I’m not good enough, but if God exists he should forgive us all
    - Church isn’t good enough, I’m not good enough and if God exists he should punish us all

    You can’t go for a middle ground can you?

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